Man Reads 75 Years of Diaries to Wife with Dementia

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The movie The Notebook became an instant hit in 2004 when it played out in real-time the romantic tale an elderly man, played by James Garner, told to a fellow nursing home resident, played by Gena Rowlands, of a young couple falling in love in the 1940s.

Across the pond, and long before the movie’s premiere, a man in England has been living a real-life version of the movie, reading the diaries he has kept for decades to his wife, suffering from dementia.

The man is Jack Potter, a 91-year-old from Rochester, Kent, England, who has been married to his wife, Phyllis, 93, for 70 years.  The couple, who have no children, married on Feb. 20, 1943, and lived together at their home in Rochester for more than 50 years until 2007, when Phyllis’ health forced her to move to a nearby nursing home.

Ever since, Potter has been visiting his wife daily at the home, Copper Beeches, and reading to her from the diaries he has kept since 1938 when his father gave him a diary for Christmas.

“Each diary is a very small pocket diary and the ones written during the war years are in a very neat hand, in pencil,” Potter, through a representative for Copper Beeches, told ABC News.

The Potters met at a dance hall in 1941, just a few years after Jack Potter joined the Army.  According to Potter’s diary entry at the time, and his recollection today, their meeting was a “life-changing moment,” and love at first sight.

“Very nice evening. Danced with [a] very nice girl. Hope I meet her again,” reads his diary entry from Oct. 4, 1941.

Less than two years later the Potters were married and, this year, in celebration of their 70th anniversary, the couple was feted in a celebration at Copper Beeches and received a congratulatory telegram from Queen Elizabeth herself.

“Phyllis means everything to Jack,” Susan Oates, home manager at Copper Beeches, told ABC News.  “He says there was no boss in their relationship, everything was equal.”

Potter says his wife was aware that he kept detailed diaries throughout their marriage, but “didn’t pay particular interest” to his habit.  Now the diaries serve as a remaining tie between the pair.

“When Jack visits Phyllis he either talks to her about their long life together or remembers particular holidays with the help of the diaries,” said Oates.  “Phyllis still recognizes Jack despite the dementia.  She pats his leg when he reads to her and often smiles.”

“Phyllis is very affectionate toward Jack and reaches out her arms to hug him when he arrives and kisses his hand when he leaves,” she said.

Asked the secret of their long, happy marriage, Potter told his local newspaper it came down to just a few simple words.

“Our motto is ‘Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be,’” he told the Kent Online.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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